An Army officer and four enlisted personnel were confirmed dead, and eight civilians, including two children were wounded in weekend clashes between the military and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in parts of central Mindanao.
The military also cited unconfirmed reports that 18 BIFF fighters were killed.
Among the dead on the government side is 1st Lt. Gerardo Flores of the 68th IB and two of his subordinates, victims of an improvised explosive device when they responded to the scene of the skirmish in Datu Piang, Maguindanao Saturday.
PFC Megan Bello and Jonathan Mores of the 7th IB, based in Paidu Pulangi in Pikit, North Cotabato, also perished.
Being treated in hospital are civilians from Datu Piang--Alimundo Gutong, 45; Armina Guntong, 42; Deding Dalimbang, 35; Ugalingan Kamid, 45, and Fatima Mamakung, 28; and her children, 2-year-old son BabeKung Mamakung and 4-year-old Babukuy Mamakung .
Authorities in control, thousands in evacuation centers
Authorities remain in control of the situation, according to 6th ID spokesman Col. Dickson Hermoso.
The last clashes happened around 4am Sunday.
In the latest clashes, thousands of families remain in evacuation centers in Datu Piang and Shariff Aguak.
It could not be known exactly how many casualties there were on the BIFF, but the military said there were unconfirmed reports that the rebel side incurred 18 fatalities.
Hermoso said the gun battles happened Saturday in Shariff Saidona Mustapha, Maguindanao and Pikit, North Cotabato. “First was the landmine ambush that killed the officer and two soldiers at around 4 p.m. in Maguindanao. Prior to this, an encounter at around 11 a.m. killed a member of the 7th IB and a member of the 5th Special Forces Battalion in North Cotabato,” Hermoso said.
Officer Flores and his two soldiers were on foot patrol when the landmine was detonated by the Moro bandits.
Citing “human intelligence” provided by the town’s Peace and Order Council, Hermoso said the BIFF suffered at least 18 fatalities. “On the other side, and I don’t to hype this, there are so many casualties. There was a report from the Peace and Order Council of Shariff Saidona Mustapha town that the BIFF had 18 fatalities,” he said.
Hermoso said that in the past two weeks they have monitored and recorded “BIFF atrocities” that led the military to attack the bandits’ positions.
In August last year, BIFF forces under the command of Ameril Umbra Kato, attacked the detachments of the 1st Mechanized Infantry Brigade in Barangay Cabengi, Datu Saudi Ampatuan; Barangay Bagan, Guindulungan; and Barangays Meta and Maitumaig in Datu Unsay.
Umbra Kato was expelled last year by the MILF for not supporting the resumption of peace talks with the government.
The military estimates Umbra Kato has 1,000 armed followers--formerly members of the MILF’s 106th base Command.
At least 84 multiple murder cases have been filed against Kato in various courts for allegedly launching attacks in North Cotabato in 2008 when the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) was struck down by the Supreme Court.
The attacks also displaced thousands of residents in North Cotabato and Maguindanao provinces.